Byline: Christopher Silvester
With the success of Tea Party candidates in the US Congressional midterm elections, one person whose stock is set to rise yet further in Washington Republican circles is Christopher Monckton, the 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley. This grandson of a Tory Cabinet minister and son of a major general might seem an odd hero for America's Tea Party movement, but Monckton has already addressed vast Tea Party rallies about what he considers to be the scientific establishment's hoax of climate change. Indeed, audiences from the American backwoods seem to lap up Monckton's curious mixture of aristocratic demeanour, intellectual grandstanding, Anglo eccentricity and vaudeville vulgarity, as is evidenced by the enormous number of hits that videos of his speeches have received on YouTube (over 3.5 million). They don't seem to mind him joking about their deficient educational standards and they seem to revel in the fact that a 'gin-u-ine' English lord is on their side. He has also twice addressed Congressional committees about climate science, invited by a Republican Congressman, and has become a welcome guest on the Tea Party movement's favourite TV discussion programme, Fox News' Glenn Beck show. Indeed, Beck, who is the Tea Party's spiritual patron, treats Lord Monckton with profound reverence.
Back in Britain, Monckton is a more marginalised figure. Euroscepticism has long been his other pet cause and earlier this year he became joint deputy leader of the UK Independence Party. When he presented UKIP's 'climate-change statement' at the party's Westminster campaign offices in March, a Private Eye reporter wrote that he had the appearance of 'an indignant raven' and noted that 'to call his long speech "swivel-eyed" would be demeanour American backwoodsmen up Monckton's aristocratic and vaudeville both unkind and inaccurate, for the most prominent thing about this one-time Fleet Street leader writer is the way his eyes do not swivel but bulge'. Even likeminded commentators, such as The Sunday Telegraph columnist Christopher Booker, are wary of him. 'Oh, lord! I don't want to comment,' he says when I seek his opinion of Monckton. 'I'd rather you say I was unavailable.' Nonetheless, Monckton's family connections are impeccable.
Through his sister Rosa, who was Princess Diana's great friend, he is brother-in-law to Dominic Lawson, Lord Lawson's son and the former editor of The Sunday Telegraph .
Monckton inherited his viscountcy in 2006, long after most hereditary peers had been banished from the House of Lords, though he still insists on referring to himself as 'a member of the Upper House, but without the right to sit or vote'. He even uses a doctored version of the official House of Lords crowned portcullis emblem on his notepaper (his is purple as opposed to the official red). But during the summer, the parliamentary authorities asked him to cease and desist. 'Lord Monckton is not and never has been a member of the House of Lords,' a spokesman announced. 'The clerk of the parliaments has written to Monckton, confirming that he has no association with the House and advising him to stop branding himself as such.' Back in the 1980s when Monckton was working for Mrs Thatcher in Downing Street's Policy Unit, he encountered her in a corridor one day. As an enthusiastic rider of powerful motorcycles, he was in the habit of going to and from work in full leathers. On this occasion he had donned his helmet before leaving the building and, already imposing at over six feet, he resembled Darth Vader - the only thing missing was a long, swinging cape. Despite his disguise, the PM recognised him instantly. 'Where are you going, Christopher?' she enquired. 'I'm offto meet the People, Prime Minister,' was his jaunty reply. This anecdote captures Monckton to a tee: the outlandish outfit, the air of invincibility, the patronising thought, the juxtaposition of ancient and modern.
Or take another off-the-wall episode in his career as a political functionary, which he wrote about recently in the course of a Daily Mail article extolling the virtues of his favourite item of headgear, the bowler hat. …